Why do some customers write glowing, five-star reviews of dealerships while other customers trash dealerships? This is a significant question – after all, eight out of 10 shoppers use online car reviews and car dealership reviews to inform their purchase[i]. At DealerRater, we decided to find answers. We found that end-to-end service and people make or break your brand.
We examined reviews of dealerships and salespeople that customers wrote on DealerRater and Cars.com in 2017 – 1.4 million reviews in all.[ii] We found some common themes in both positive and negative reviews by examining the most common words and phrases that crop up in such reviews. Here are two major takeaways:
1 A VIP experience creates customer relationships
The ability to provide both a great buying and service experience is the single-most important factor influencing positive dealership reviews. More than 47,000 phrases, or 41 percent of positive content, single out a great experience from purchase to service.
Customers have high standards: the words “great customer experience” or “excellent customer service” occurred most often in positive dealership reviews, followed by variations of “best” or “great buying experience.”
On the other hand, bad service and maintenance dominate the themes that appear in negative reviews. What do bad service and maintenance look like?:
2 Your people are your brand
A helpful, responsive staff throughout the entire purchase and service process is key to making customers happy. More than 21,000 phrases, or 19 percent of positive content, singled out people, especially for being friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.
On the other hand, unresponsive staff loom very large in negative reviews. We found frequent instances of phrases such as “won’t return phone calls” and “never called back” in negative reviews. To be sure, being busy is often a sign of success. But to stay successful in the era of the on-demand economy, dealerships need to be more responsive than ever. Especially in the always-on mobile age, customers expect near-instant responses.
In addition, perceptions of the finance department influenced negative reviews, with customers expressing confusion and distrust of the person managing the terms of their financing. Here is an opportunity for finance professionals to improve their standing by offering clarity around how financing works and which options are best for the consumer, just as salespeople need to explain the “why” behind pricing. At a time when online financing is becoming an option to customers, your finance team needs to work more like a customer service team to build customer goodwill.
The message is clear: dealerships win when they train everyone on the lot, from the salesperson to the receptionist, to act like a customer service ambassador.